Our lab at the International Symposium on Bilingualism, in July 2021! #ISB13

Our lab participates in this year’s ISB conference with seven presentations! Come visit us at the times below (all UK times):

-11/07, 14.15: Christos Pliatsikas, Vincent DeLuca, Sergio Pereira Soares, Toms Voits and Jason Rothman: Bilingualism modulates metabolite concentrations in the healthy brain 

Part of the thematic session TS24: Synergies & confrontations: socio- and psycholinguistic, cognitive and neuroscientific approaches to bilingualism 

-11/07, 14.15: Najla Alrwaita, Lotte Meteyard, Carmel Houston-Price and Christos Pliatsikas: Is there an effect of diglossia on cognition? An investigation of the relationship between diglossia and executive functions in young adults

Part of the open session OS10: Psycholinguistics: the cognitive aspects of bilingualism (III)

-12/07, 8:00: Michal Korenar, Jeanine Treffers-Daller and Christos Pliatsikas: Bilingualism and creativity: The effects of bilingual experiences of interpreters and translators on creative thinking

Part of the open session OS12: Translation/ Interpretation / Mediation

-13/07, 08:00: Jia’en Yee, Ngee Thai Yap, Douglas Saddy, Christos Pliatsikas: Subcortical restructuring with increasing language experience: insights from bilinguals and trilinguals 

Part of the open session OS18: Bilingualism and the brain

-13/07, 15.30: Nan Xu Rattanasone, Jae-Hyun Kim, Christos Pliatsikas: English vocabulary predicts the acquisition of grammatical inflections in Mandarin-speaking preschoolers

Part of the open session OS21: Early second language acquisition & learning (I)

-14/07, 9:45: Michal Korenar, Jeanine Treffers-Daller and Christos Pliatsikas: Subcortical adaptations in interpreters and translators compared to multilingual controls, and their relationship to multilingual experiences 

Part of the thematic session TS25: The intersection between interpreting and the language hierarchy

-14/07, 13:00: Toms Voits, Jason Rothman, Holly Robson, Marco Calabria, Lidón Marín Marín, Victor Costumero, Naiara Aguirre, Christos Pliatsikas: Bilingualism-related neural adaptations in Mild Cognitive Impairment patients are modulated by language experiences 

Part of the open session OS17: Cognitive and language impairments in bilingual speakers

More details about the conference can be found here: https://isb13.wls.uw.edu.pl/

If you wish to register to ISB, please write to isb13@nobell.pl for further instructions.

New preprint: Executive functions in Arabic diglossic young adults

Alrwaita, N., Meteyard, L., Houston-price, C., & Pliatsikas, C. (2021): Is there an effect of diglossia on cognition? An investigation of the relationship between diglossia and Executive Functions in young adults.

To access, click here

Abstract

Recent studies investigating whether bilingualism has effects on cognitive abilities beyond language have produced mixed results, with evidence from young adults typically showing no effects. These inconclusive patterns have been attributed to many uncontrolled factors, including linguistic similarity and the conversational contexts the bilinguals find themselves in, including the opportunities they get to switch between their languages. In this study, we focus on the effects on cognition of diglossia, a linguistic situation where two varieties of the same language are spoken in different and clearly separable contexts. We used linear mixed models to compare 32 Arabic diglossic young adults, and 38 English monolinguals on cognitive tasks assessing the Executive Functions domains of inhibition, switching and working memory. Results revealed that, despite both groups performing as expected on all tasks, there were no effects of diglossia on their performance in any of these domains. These results are discussed in relation to the Adaptive Control Hypothesis. Considering that this is the first study to investigate the diglossic advantages in Arabic, we propose that any effects on Executive Functions that may be attributed to the use of more than one language or language variety should not be expected when the two are used in exclusive contexts with limited opportunity to switch between them.

New paper on metabolite concentrations in the bilingual brain, in Scientific Reports

Pliatsikas, C., Pereira-Soares, S.M., Voits, T., Deluca, V., & Rothman, J. (2021): Bilingualism is a long-term cognitively challenging experience that modulates metabolite concentrations in the healthy brain. Scientific Reports, 11, 7090. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86443-4.

To access, click here

Abstract

Cognitively demanding experiences, including complex skill acquisition and processing, have been shown to induce brain adaptations, at least at the macroscopic level, e.g. on brain volume and/or functional connectivity. However, the neurobiological bases of these adaptations, including at the cellular level, are unclear and understudied. Here we use bilingualism as a case study to investigate the metabolic correlates of experience-based brain adaptations. We employ Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy to measure metabolite concentrations in the basal ganglia, a region critical to language control which is reshaped by bilingualism. Our results show increased myo-Inositol and decreased N-acetyl aspartate concentrations in bilinguals compared to monolinguals. Both metabolites are linked to synaptic pruning, a process underlying experience-based brain restructuring. Interestingly, both concentrations correlate with relative amount of bilingual engagement. This suggests that degree of long-term cognitive experiences matters at the level of metabolic concentrations, which might accompany, if not drive, macroscopic brain adaptations.

Many congratulations to Michal Korenar!

Our own Michal has been awarded the prestigious Fulbright-Masaryk award, part of the Fulbright Scholarships program, to spend six months as a visiting scholar at Roger Beaty’s Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity Laboratory at the Centre for Language Science, Penn State University, USA. During this visit he will conduct a project on creativity and the brain. Well done Michal!

And if you are interested in Michal’s work (and you speak Czech!), Michal will give an online talk as part of the Brain Awareness Week on March 21 (11.00-12.00, Central European Time)

Brain Awareness Week (15 – 21 March 2021) is the largest global campaign to raise public awareness about brain research. In Czechia, Brain Awareness Week is co-organized by the Czech Academy of Sciences as a cycle of lectures on the newest brain discoveries. On this occasion, CeLM PhD student Michal Korenar has been selected as a speaker to present the advancements in the field of neuroscience of multilingualism. The presentation titled “Bilingualism: a conflict for which your brain will thank you” will be held in Czech

More information about the talk, including how to attend, can be found here

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New preprint: The effects of diglossia and bidialectalism on cognition

Alrwaita, N., Houston-Price, C., & Pliatsikas, C (2020): The effects of using two variants of one language on cognition: Evidence from bidialectalism and diglossia.

To access, click here

Abstract:

The question of whether and how bilingualism affects domain general cognition has been extensively debated. Less attention has been paid to the cognitive abilities of speakers of different variants of the same language, in linguistic situations such as bidialectalism and diglossia. Similarly to the bilingual situation, in bidialectalism and diglossia speakers need to use only one variant of the language in a given context. However, these situations provide fewer opportunities for mixing or switching between the variants, potentially leading to different domain general cognitive outcomes than those reported in bilingualism. Here we review the available evidence on the effects of bidialectalism and diglossia on cognition, and evaluate it in relation to theories of the effects of bilingualism on cognition. We conclude that investigations of bilingualism, bidialectalism and diglossia must take into account the conversational context and, in particular, the opportunities for language switching that this affords

PhD studentships in Language Sciences at the University of Reading


The School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading is inviting applicants for PhD studentships in the language sciences. Research in the school covers work in psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics, language development, bi-/multilingualism, and language disorders. We are looking for students interested in pursuing PhD projects along these broad themes. Successful applicants will have full access to facilities within the School, which include eye-tracking, TMS, EEG and MRI, and will become members of the various labs and research centres across the School and university. This includes the Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics Lab and the Acquired Brain and Communication Disorders Lab within the School, and the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism and the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics across the university. A number of PhD studentships are currently available for study beginning in October 2021, as described below.

SeNNS Doctoral Training Partnership

The University of Reading is part of the ESRC funded SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership which awards studentships for either 3-year PhD study, or combined MSc/PhD study involving a 1-year MSc followed by 3-year PhD. These studentships are open to UK and international applicants, and cover fees at the UK rate, and a yearly stipend. International students must be able to make up the difference between UK and international fees. Eligibility for UK applicants is defined as being a UK national, have settled or pre-settled status, or have indefinite leave to remain. All other applicants will be treated as international. Interested applicants should contact esrcdtp@reading.ac.uk with an expression of interest by December 11th, 2020. 

Magdalen Vernon Studentship

The School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences also offers the Magdalen Vernon Studentship. This is a 4-year PhD award that covers UK fees and provides a graduate teaching assistantship. International students are welcome to apply if they are able to make up the difference between UK and international fees. The deadline for applications is December 11th, 2020.

University International Research Studentships

The University of Reading also offers 3-year studentships to (non-UK) international students. This year, International Research Studentships will be awarded on either a fees + stipend basis, or on a fees-only basis. The deadline for applications for International Studentships is January 11th, 2021.

Further information on all schemes is available via the university’s Graduate School Website. Interested applicants should contact the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at pcls.pgr@reading.ac.uk to register their interest in applying. Interested applicants should also contact potential supervisors at Reading (see staff list within the School here) to discuss their proposal and application.

Proudly presenting… Dr Toms Voits!

Please join me in congratulating newly minted Dr Toms Voits for having just defended his PhD viva. And did I say that no corrections were required?

Congratulations Toms!

Given the circumstances, we cannot celebrate this achievement properly; in lieu of that, I am sharing here an older photo showing how Toms must be feeling right now!

New pre-print: The effects of bilingualism on the structure of the hippocampus and on memory performance in ageing bilinguals

Voits, T., Robson, H., Rothman, J., & Pliatsikas, C. (2020). The effects of bilingualism on the structure of the hippocampus and on memory performance in ageing bilinguals.

To access, click here

Abstract:

Long-term management of more than one language has been suggested to lead to changes in cognition and the brain. This is particularly documented in older age, where bilingualism is associated with protective effects against decline, for example, affording compensation for symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease leading to delayed diagnosis relative to non-bilinguals. Herein, we focus on potential bilingualism effects in the hippocampus, a brain structure related to memory that is particularly vulnerable to cognitive ageing. Hippocampal volume has been shown to increase as a result of second language learning and use in younger adults. However, we do not know if this is maintained over the lifespan, that is, what the long-term effects might be examined in ageing. Herein, we examine hippocampal volume and performance in episodic memory tasks in healthy ageing long-term bilinguals compared to monolinguals. Results show greater hippocampal volume for the bilinguals, which was correlated to individual-level quantified use of the two languages. Thus, our results mirror that of immersive active bilingualism in younger populations. No significant effects of bilingualism were reported on episodic memory task performance. Our findings suggest that long-term active bilingualism leads to neuroprotective effects in the hippocampus, which we discuss in the context of the proposed bilingualism-induced brain reserve in older age literature.